jeudi 16 février 2012

Shkaplerov Anton and Oleg Kononenko took to the outer surface of the ISS

ISS - International Space Station patch.


February 16 at 18 h 31 min. Moscow at the International Space Station cosmonauts Shkaplerov Anton and Oleg Kononenko went into space and began the routine work of the Russian program.

The yield realized from the docking bay, "Pierce" in suits "Orlan-MK." To perform all assigned work for about six hours.

Cosmonauts Shkaplerov Anton and Oleg Kononenko spacewalk

During this time, the Russian cosmonauts must complete the transfer of cargo boom with docking module on the module MIM2, an experiment "Test" in the working chamber service module, as well as when there is sufficient time to complete install additional panels on the operating section of the service module, struts on the optional remote job service module and the power of exposure (experiment "Endurance") on the module MIM2.

For Anton Shkaplerova the first spacewalk. His colleague Oleg Kononenko has twice worked in the open space total of 12 hours and 15 minutes.

ISS Russian Spacewalk Coverage February 16, 2012

Hatch docking module "Pirs" closed - spacewalk successfully completed

Having worked in the open space 6 hours 15 minutes and flight engineers of the International Space Station (ISS), Russian Space Agency astronauts Shkaplerov Anton and Oleg Kononenko returned to the International Space Station.

During the exit (36th out of the Russian segment of ISS) in the EVA astronauts carried out the transfer of cargo boom GStM-1 with the docking module "Pirs" (SB-1) and install it on a small research unit "Search" to mount the module " Search "block exposure of samples to experiment," Endurance "and within the space experiment" Test "took samples from the surface of the working chamber service module" Zvezda ".

For Anton Shkaplerova this exit was the first, while his colleague Oleg Kononenko, third spacewalk.

The ISS crew continues to work 30/31 long expedition in the Commander Daniel Burbank (NASA), flight engineers Anton Shkaplerova (Roscosmos), Anatoly Ivanishin (Roscosmos), Oleg Kononenko (Roscosmos), Andre Cowper (ESA) and Donald Pettit (NASA .)

Images, Video, Text, Credits: Press Service of the Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos PAO) / Energia / NASA / Translation:


mercredi 15 février 2012

Hubble Finds Relic of a Shredded Galaxy

ESA - Hubble Space Telescope logo.

15 February 2012

Star cluster surrounds wayward black hole in cannibal galaxy ESO 243-49 (unlabelled)

Astronomers using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have found a cluster of young blue stars surrounding a mid-sized black hole called HLX-1. The discovery suggests that the black hole formed in the core of a now-disintegrated dwarf galaxy. The findings have important implications for understanding the evolution of supermassive black holes and galaxies.

Astronomers know how massive stars collapse to form small black holes a few times the mass of the Sun. However, it is not clear how supermassive black holes, which can have masses of millions or even billions of times the Sun's, form in the cores of galaxies. One idea is that supermassive black holes may build up through the merger of small and mid-sized black holes, a view supported by a new study using Hubble.

Star cluster surrounds wayward black hole in cannibal galaxy ESO 243-49 (labelled)

Sean Farrell of the Sydney Institute for Astronomy in Australia and the University of Leicester, UK, discovered a middleweight black hole in 2009 using the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton X-ray space telescope.

Black holes can be spotted using X-rays because of radiation coming from matter heating up as it swirls around and falls into the black hole. This phenomenon is known to astronomers as an accretion disc.

Known as HLX-1 (Hyper-Luminous X-ray source 1), this black hole weighs in around 20 000 times the mass of the Sun and lies towards the edge of galaxy ESO 243-49, which is 290 million light-years from Earth.

Now, Farrell’s team has studied HLX-1 in ultraviolet, visible and infrared light using Hubble, and simultaneously in X-rays using the NASA/STFC/ASI Swift satellite.

“For a unique source we needed a unique telescope,” explains Mathieu Servillat, second author of the study. “Hubble provided such precision in its images that it helped us understand the origin and environment of this intermediate-mass black hole.”

Because HLX-1 is around 290 million light-years away, it is too far for Hubble to measure the individual stars around the black hole. However, a great deal can be deduced from the light that comes from it. Hubble’s images of the region show an excess of red light, which cannot be explained by emissions from the accretion disc alone. This light, the team concludes, is evidence of a cluster of hot stars surrounding the black hole as the brightness and colour of the light is similar to that from star clusters in nearby galaxies.

“What we can definitely say with our Hubble data,” says Farrell, “is that we require both emission from an accretion disc and emission from a stellar population to explain the colours we see.”

The existence of a star cluster around the black hole in turn gives clues about where the intermediate mass black hole may have come from, and why it lies in its present location in ESO 243-49.

“The fact that there’s a very young cluster of stars indicates that the intermediate-mass black hole may have originated as the central black hole in a very low-mass dwarf galaxy,” Farrell explains. “The dwarf galaxy was then swallowed by the more massive galaxy.”

As the dwarf galaxy was ripped apart, the black hole with some of its surrounding material would have survived.

The future of the black hole is uncertain at this stage. It depends on its trajectory, which is currently unknown. It’s possible that the black hole may spiral into the centre of ESO 243-49 and merge with the supermassive black hole there. Alternatively, the black hole could settle into a stable orbit around the galaxy. Either way, it’s likely to fade away in X-rays as it depletes its supply of gas.

The team has more observations planned this year to track the history of the interaction between the two galaxies.

NASA / ESA Hubble Space Telescope in orbit

The new findings are being published on 15 February in the Astrophysical Journal.


The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between ESA and NASA.

The international team of astronomers in this study consists of S. A. Farrell (Sydney Institute of Astronomy, Australia, and University of Leicester, UK), M. Servillat (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astronomy, USA), J. Pforr (University of Portsmouth, UK), T.J. Maccarone (University of Southampton, UK), C. Knigge (University of Southampton, UK), O. Godet (Universty of Toulouse, France, and CNRS IRAP, France), C. Maraston (University of Portsmouth, UK), N.A. Webb (University of Toulouse, France, and CNRS IRAP, France), D. Barret (University of Toulouse, France, and CNRS IRAP, France), A. Gosling (University of Oxford, UK), R. Belmont (University of Toulouse, France, and CNRS IRAP, France), K. Wiersema (University of Leicester, UK).

These results are reported in a paper entitled “A young stellar population around the intermediate mass black hole ESO 243-49 HLX-1”, published in the Astrophysical Journal on 15 February.


    Images of Hubble:

    Science paper:

Images, Text, Credit: NASA, ESA, and S. Farrell (University of Sydney, Australia and University of Leicester, UK).


Rhea Before Titan

NASA / ESA - Cassini Mission to Saturn patch.

Feb. 15, 2012

Craters appear well defined on icy Rhea in front of the hazy orb of the much larger moon Titan in this Cassini spacecraft view of these two Saturn moons.

Lit terrain seen here is on the leading hemispheres of Rhea and Titan. North on the moons is up and rotated 13 degrees to the left. The limb, or edge of the visible disk, of Rhea is slightly overexposed in this view.

The image was taken in visible green light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Dec. 10, 2011. The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 1.2 million miles (2 million kilometers) from Titan and at a Sun-Titan-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 109 degrees. The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 810,000 miles (1.3 million kilometers) from Rhea and at a Sun-Rhea-spacecraft, or phase, angle of 109 degrees. Image scale is 8 miles (12 kilometers) per pixel on Titan and 5 miles (8 kilometers) per pixel on Rhea.

For more information about Cassini Mission, visit: and

Image, Text, Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Space Science Institute.


Cleaning up Earth's orbit: A Swiss satellite tackles space debris

Space Junk.

Feb. 15, 2012

 CleanSpace One - a Swiss satellite to tackle space junk

The proliferation of debris orbiting the Earth – primarily jettisoned rocket and satellite components – is an increasingly pressing problem for spacecraft, and it can generate huge costs. To combat this scourge, the Swiss Space Center at EPFL is announcing today the launch of CleanSpace One, a project to develop and build the first installment of a family of satellites specially designed to clean up space debris.

The Earth’s orbit is full of all kinds of floating debris; a growing crowd of abandoned satellites, spent rocket stages, bits of broken spacecraft, and fragments from collisions are rocketing around the planet at breathtaking speeds. NASA keeps close tabs on at least 16,000 of these objects that are larger than 10 cm in diameter. When an operational spacecraft such as a satellite collides with one of them, serious, costly damage can result; often the satellite is complete destroyed. And the collision itself then generates thousands more fragments, further exacerbating the problem.

CleanSpace One approach SwissCube satellite

“It has become essential to be aware of the existence of this debris and the risks that are run by its proliferation,” says Claude Nicollier, astronaut and EPFL professor. To move beyond mere rhetoric and take immediate action to get this stuff out of orbit, the Swiss Space Center at EPFL is launching CleanSpace One, a project to build the first prototype in a family of “de-orbiting” satellites.

The project developers have chosen a symbolic target for the initial CleanSpace One launch: either Switzerland’s first orbiting object, the Swisscube picosatellite which was put in orbit in 2009, or its cousin TIsat, launched in July 2010.

One satellite, three technological hurdles

The cleanup satellite has three major challenges to overcome, each of which will necessitate the development of new technology that could, in turn, be used down the road in other applications.

CleanSpace One approach SwissCube satellite

After its launch, the cleanup satellite will have to adjust its trajectory in order to match its target’s orbital plane. To do this, it could use a new kind of ultra-compact motor designed for space applications that is being developed in EPFL laboratories. When it gets within range of its target, which will be traveling at 28,000 km/h at an altitude of 630-750 km, CleanSpace One will grab and stabilize it – a mission that’s extremely dicey at these high speeds, particularly if the satellite is rotating. To accomplish the task, scientists are planning to develop a gripping mechanism inspired from a plant or animal example. Finally, once it’s coupled with the satellite, CleanSpace One will “de-orbit” the unwanted satellite by heading back into the Earth’s atmosphere, where the two satellites will burn upon re-entry.

Although its first model is destined to be destroyed, the CleanSpace One adventure will not be a one-shot deal. “We want to offer and sell a whole family of ready-made systems, designed as sustainably as possible, that are able to de-orbit several different kinds of satellites,” explains Swiss Space Center Director Volker Gass. “Space agencies are increasingly finding it necessary to take into consideration and prepare for the elimination of the stuff they’re sending into space. We want to be the pioneers in this area.”

CleanSpace One capture SwissCube satellite

The design and construction of CleanSpace One, as well as its maiden space voyage, will cost about 10 million Swiss francs. Depending on the funding and industrial partners, this first orbital rendez-vous could take place within three to five years.

About space debris

16,000 objects larger than 10 cm in diameter and hundreds of millions of smaller particles are ripping around the Earth at speeds of several kilometers per second. From the beginning of the Space Age, Earth’s periphery has been increasingly encumbered by all kinds of debris, primarily concentrated in Low Earth Orbit (less than 2000 km in altitude, where the International Space Station is orbiting) or Geostationary Orbit (35,786 km in altitude). Many of these objects are spent rocket stages or satellites that have broken up in orbit. If they collide with another orbiting object, say a functioning satellite, they can cause massive damage, or even destroy it. This is what happened on February 10, 2009, when the U.S. satellite Iridium-33 exploded upon impact with the abandoned Russian satellite Cosmos-2251. The financial consequences of these collisions are enormous, particularly for insurance companies involved in the space sector; a sum currently estimated at $20 billion to insure existing satellites.

CleanSpace One process

Cases such as this one are bound to increase in number. Even in the immensity of outer space, the increasing density of human-generated waste is becoming a problem. It’s expanding exponentially, because each collision generates in turn several thousand more fragments, which, although smaller, are no less dangerous than a large, abandoned satellite. NASA, which tracks 16,000 of these objects, can only monitor the largest ones (greater than 10 cm in diameter) – but at these incredible speeds even a simple paint chip can seriously damage a solar panel or the window on a shuttle. To avoid the largest objects before they get critically close, the International Space Station must constantly alter its orbit. It managed to do this again just recently, on January 29, 2012.

Last year the Swiss Re insurance company published a study showing that every year, there is a nearly one in 10,000 chance that a 10 m2 satellite traveling in a sun-synchronous (600-1,000 km) orbit will collide with a piece of space debris larger than 1 cm.

Related links:

Swiss Space Center:


Images, Video, Text, Credit: EPFL / Emmanuel Barraud / Mediacom.

Best regards,

mardi 14 février 2012

Launched from Baikonur space rocket "Proton-M" & communications spacecraft SES-4 (formerly NSS-14) satellite

ILS / Roscosmos - SES-4 (formerly NSS-14) Mission poster.


February 14 at 23.36.37 GMT on launch pad area 200 Baikonur launch took place of a space rocket "Proton-M" with the upper block (RB), "the Briz-M", designed for launching into orbit communications spacecraft SES-4 (formerly NSS-14) satellite.

We had a successful liftoff about 11 minutes ago of the ILS Proton M Breeze M rocket, which is carrying the SES-4 satellite on-board. The three stages of the Proton vehicle have performed as planned, and it is up to the Breeze M upper stage to complete the mission. The upper stage has begun its first burn, which is scheduled to last around 4 minutes.

Proton-M & SES-4 (formerly NSS-14) launch

February 14, 2012 2:58 pm (GMT)
We have received confirmation of completion of the first burn. The vehicle is now scheduled to be out of range for about an hour, after which we will hear confirmation of the second burn.

February 14, 2012 4:14 pm (GMT)
As the Breeze M upper stage of our Proton M rocket continues its climb into space with the SES-4 satellite on-board, we have received confirmation that the 2nd burn of the upper stage occurred and shut down as scheduled.

SES-4 (formerly NSS-14) communications satellite

The next events are scheduled for about 2 hours from now. The Breeze M upper stage will ignite for a 3rd time and burn for approximately 11 minutes; after that the additional propellant tank will be jettisoned and the the Breeze M will ignite and burn for a 4th time. All this will happen in a span of almost 20 minutes while the vehicle is again out of range of a ground station. We should reacquire the vehicle shortly after the 4th burn is complete.

Office of the spacecraft from the upper stage is scheduled for 08.48 GMT on February 15.

Mission control website:

Images, Video, Text, Credit: Press Service of the Russian Space Agency (Roscosmos PAO) / ILS.

Best regards,

lundi 13 février 2012

Oldest Recorded Supernova

NASA - Spitzer Mission patch / NASA - Chandra X-ray Observatory patch / ESA - XMM-Newton Mission patch / NASA - WISE Mission patch.

Feb. 13, 2012

This image combines data from four space telescopes to create a multi-wavelength view of all that remains of RCW 86, the oldest documented example of a supernova. Chinese astronomers witnessed the event in 185 A.D., documenting a mysterious "guest star" that remained in the sky for eight months. X-ray images from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton Observatory were combined to form the blue and green colors in the image. The X-rays show the interstellar gas that has been heated to millions of degrees by the passage of the shock wave from the supernova.

Infrared data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope and WISE, Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer, shown in yellow and red, reveal dust radiating at a temperature of several hundred degrees below zero, warm by comparison to normal dust in our Milky Way galaxy.

By studying the X-ray and infrared data, astronomers were able to determine that the cause of the explosion was a Type Ia supernova, in which an otherwise-stable white dwarf, or dead star, was pushed beyond the brink of stability when a companion star dumped material onto it. Furthermore, scientists used the data to solve another mystery surrounding the remnant -- how it got to be so large in such a short amount of time. By blowing away wind prior to exploding, the white dwarf was able to clear out a huge "cavity," a region of very low-density surrounding the system. The explosion into this cavity was able to expand much faster than it otherwise would have.

This is the first time that this type of cavity has been seen around a white dwarf system prior to explosion. Scientists say the results may have significant implications for theories of white-dwarf binary systems and Type Ia supernovae.

RCW 86 is approximately 8,000 light-years away. At about 85 light-years in diameter, it occupies a region of the sky in the southern constellation of Circinus that is slightly larger than the full moon. This image was compiled in October 2011.

For more informations about all telescope mentioned in this article, visit:

Image, Text, Credits: X-ray: NASA / CXC / SAO & ESA; Infared: NASA / JPL-Caltech / B. Williams (NCSU).


Planck steps closer to the cosmic blueprint

ESA - Planck Mission patch.

13 February 2012

ESA’s Planck mission has revealed that our Galaxy contains previously undiscovered islands of cold gas and a mysterious haze of microwaves. These results give scientists new treasure to mine and take them closer to revealing the blueprint of cosmic structure.

All-sky image of molecular gas seen by Planck and previous surveys

The new results are being presented this week at an international conference in Bologna, Italy, where astronomers from around the world are discussing the mission’s intermediate results.

These results include the first map of carbon monoxide to cover the entire sky. Carbon monoxide is a constituent of the cold clouds that populate the Milky Way and other galaxies. Predominantly made of hydrogen molecules, these clouds provide the reservoirs from which stars are born. 
However, hydrogen molecules are difficult to detect because they do not readily emit radiation. Carbon monoxide forms under similar conditions and, even though it is much rarer, it emits light more readily and therefore is more easily detectable. So, astronomers use it to trace the clouds of hydrogen.

Molecular clouds in the Cepheus region

“Planck turns out to be an excellent detector of carbon monoxide across the entire sky,” says Planck collaborator Jonathan Aumont from the Institut d’Astrophysique Spatiale, Universite Paris XI, Orsay, France.

Surveys of carbon monoxide undertaken with radio telescopes on the ground are extremely time consuming, hence they are limited to portions of the sky where molecular clouds are already known or expected to exist.

“The great advantage of Planck is that it scans the whole sky, allowing us to detect concentrations of molecular gas where we didn’t expect to find them,” says Dr Aumont.

All-sky image of molecular gas and three molecular cloud complexes seen by Planck

Planck has also detected a mysterious haze of microwaves that presently defies explanation.

It comes from the region surrounding the galactic centre and looks like a form of energy called synchrotron emission. This is produced when electrons pass through magnetic fields after having been accelerated by supernova explosions.

The curiosity is that the synchrotron emission associated with the galactic haze exhibits different characteristics from the synchrotron emission seen elsewhere in the Milky Way.

The galactic haze shows what astronomers call a ‘harder’ spectrum: its emission does not decline as rapidly with increasing energies.

The mysterious Galactic Haze seen by Planck

Several explanations have been proposed for this unusual behaviour, including higher supernova rates, galactic winds and even the annihilation of dark-matter particles.

So far, none of them has been confirmed and it remains puzzling.

“The results achieved thus far by Planck on the galactic haze and on the carbon monoxide distribution provide us with a fresh view on some interesting processes taking place in our Galaxy,” says Jan Tauber, ESA’s Project Scientist for Planck.

Planck’s primary goal is to observe the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB), the relic radiation from the Big Bang, and to measure its encoded information about the constituents of the Universe and the origin of cosmic structure.

Galactic Haze seen by Planck and Galactic 'bubbles' seen by Fermi

But it can only be reached once all sources of foreground emission, such as the galactic haze and the carbon monoxide signals, have been identified and removed.

“The lengthy and delicate task of foreground removal provides us with prime datasets that are shedding new light on hot topics in galactic and extragalactic astronomy alike,” says Dr Tauber.

“We look forward to characterising all foregrounds and then being able to reveal the CMB in unprecedented detail.”

Planck’s first cosmological dataset is expected to be released in 2013.

All-sky image of molecular gas seen by Planck and previous surveys
All-sky image of molecular gas seen by Planck
 Molecular clouds in the Taurus region
Molecular clouds in the Pegasus region

Related links:

Planck on Chromoscope:

Planck: looking back at the dawn of time:

For specialists:

Planck Science Team:

In depth:

In depth overview:

Galaxy clusters:

Coldest objects:

Anomalous radiation:

Early structure:

Planck in depth:

International participation in Herschel and Planck (pdf):

Images, Text, Credits: ESA / Planck Collaboration / T. Dame et al / NASA / DOE / Fermi LAT / D. Finkbeiner et al. (gamma rays).


ESA’s new Vega launcher scores success on maiden flight

ESA - VEGA Launcher logo.

13 February 2012

Vega, ESA’s new launch vehicle, is ready to operate alongside the Ariane 5 and Soyuz launchers after a successful qualification flight this morning from Europe’s Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana.

Liftoff of Vega VV01

With Vega extending the family of launchers available at the spaceport, Europe now covers the full range of launch needs, from small science and Earth observation satellites to the largest missions like ESA’s supply freighters to the International Space Station.

The first Vega lifted off at 10:00 GMT (11:00 CET, 07:00 local time) from the new launch pad, and conducted a flawless qualification flight.

Liftoff of Vega VV01

Vega’s light launch capacity accommodates a wide range of satellites – from 300 kg to 2500 kg – into a wide variety of orbits, from equatorial to Sun-synchronous. Its reference mission is 1500 kg into a 700 km-high circular Sun-synchronous orbit.

Vega will thus add to Europe’s set of launch services next to the Ariane 5 heavy-lifter and the Soyuz medium-class launcher already in service.

The combination of these three systems operating from French Guiana will also improve the efficiency of Europe’s launch infrastructure by sharing its operating costs over a larger number of launches. 

“In a little more than three months, Europe has increased the number of launchers it operates from one to three, widening significantly the range of launch services offered by the European operator Arianespace. There is not anymore one single European satellite which cannot be launched by a European launcher service,” said Jean-Jacques Dordain, Director General of ESA.

Vega VV01 ready for launch

“It is a great day for ESA, its Member States, in particularly Italy where Vega was born, for European industry and for Arianespace.”

Vega launcher development started in 2003. Seven Member States contributed to the programme: Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

“Today is a moment of pride for Europe as well as those around 1000 individuals who have been involved in developing the world’s most modern and competitive launcher system for small satellites,” said Antonio Fabrizi, ESA’s Director of Launchers.

“ESA, with the technical support of the Italian and French space agencies, and about 40 industrial companies coordinated by the prime contractor ELV SpA, have made this enormous challenge a reality in under a decade of development.”

Related new:

European students reach for the stars:

Follow the CubeSats journey to Space on board of Vega's inaugural flight!:

Related links:

Vega liftoff pictures:

Vega ecards:


Vega on Flickr:

Vega VV01 launch website:

Images, Video, Text, Credits: ESA / S. Corvaja / Arianespace.

Best regards,